Cheese Ball Wreath
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Christmas Cheese Ball Wreath — A delectable cheese ball mixture rolled in festive and colorful toppings and arranged into a wreath! A show-stopping presentation of wonderful cheese bites for your holiday parties and entertaining tables! EASY to make and can be made IN ADVANCE! No one can resist the allure of cheese!
Easy Cheese Ball Appetizer
Calling all cheese lovers, this holiday-inspired cheese ball wreath is for you! Other than my daughter, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love cheese. I eat her share and then some.
If I was at a Christmas party, New Year’s Eve party, or any kind of get-together I would babysit this cheese ball baby all night long.
My Christmas cheese ball wreath is easy enough to make and you can prepare it in advance, which is actually preferred so that it chills and the cheese sets up nicely.
For anyone looking for a festive appetizer that is sure to get its share of ooh’s and ahh’s, look no further than this cheesy appetizer. I promise, it’s actually faster and easier to make than it looks!
Ingredients in a Christmas Cheese Ball Wreath
To make this impressive and festive Christmas themed appetizer, you’ll need the following easy to find ingredients:
- Cream cheese
- Shredded cheese
- Dry ranch dip mix (regular, fiesta, or spicy flavor)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Dijon mustard (don’t use yellow mustard because the flavor just isn’t the same)
- Red or yellow bell peppers
You will also need toppings to roll the cheese balls into:
- Dried cranberries
- White sesame seeds
- Black sesame seeds
- Slivered almonds
- Red pepper flakes, omit if you don’t want any heat
How to Make a Cheese Ball Wreath
The base of this recipe is for ranch cheese balls, but the various toppings add so many different flavors and textures. To make your holiday cheese wreath appetizer, simply follow these very easy steps:
Step 1: Beat together the cream cheese, shredded cheese, mayo, Worcestershire, mustard, and ranch mix.
Step 2: Mix in the bell peppers.
Step 3: Using a medium cookie scoop, make cheese balls.
Step 4: In a mini food processor, pulse the cranberries. Then, pulse the pecans. And combine the two in a small bowl.
Step 4: Pulse the pistachios. Then combine them with the black sesame seeds in a small bowl.
Step 5: Add the slivered almonds and red pepper flakes to a small bowl.
Step 6: Roll ⅓ of the cheese balls in the pecans and cranberries. Divide and roll ⅓ of the cheese balls in the pistachios and black sesame seeds. Roll the last ⅓ of the cheese balls in the slivered almonds and red pepper flakes.
Tip For Making Ahead: Optionally, stop here, and carefully place the rolled balls in airtight containers and assemble the actual wreath later.
Step 7: On a large platter or plate, arrange the balls in a circle wreath.
Tips: Space out the different flavors of cheese balls, and if necessary, use a toothpick pushed in to hold in place. Stack and stagger the cheese balls to create a beautiful wreath. Decorate with thyme, sage, rosemary or other leaves and stems.
Step 8: Refrigerate your platter for at least 2 hours, or up to 24-28 hours, before serving so it holds better at room temp.
What Kind of Cheese to Use in a Cheese Ball Wreath?
I used shredded cheddar cheese blend, but you can use a wide variety of shredded cheeses when making mini cheese balls.
For example, a Mexican cheese blend or an Italian blend would be fine. As well as pepper Jack or Colby.
I’ve never tried used a reduced fat cheese blend, although it would probably be okay.
Can I Use Low- or No-Fat Cream Cheese?
While using reduced fat shredded cheese is probably okay, you cannot cut corners with the cream cheese.
You need to use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese and not low fat, zero fat, or anything labeled ‘spreadable’ since they are too mushy due to their lack of fat.
This will translate into the cream cheese cheese balls not holding their shape and seeming overly soft and mushy, even when well chilled.
Do I Have to Use Mayonnaise?
Yes, you do. I know there are mayo haters out there but it’s only 3 tablespoons in the entire recipe.
The main purpose is not for the taste, but rather for the texture and to help mix in with the shredded cheese so that you can work with it more easily to form the cheese balls.
Again, I suggest full-fat mayo and not anything lite, reduced, nonfat, and I don’t know if vegan mayo would work, but just use regular Hellman’s or similar for this recipe is my advice.
You could possibly get away with using goat cheese instead of mayo but it would have to be really well-softened, texture dependent, and you may still end up having to use a touch of mayo, too.
Can the Toppings for the Cheese Ball Wreath Be Substituted?
For the toppings, I wanted to use red (cranberries) and green (pistachios) to make the cheese ball wreath be as festive and as Christmas-ey as possible for this time of year.
After that, a mixture of seeds and nuts is what I chose.
However, you don’t have to use any of the toppings I used and can use whatever floats your cheese balls.
Although you do need some sort of toppings to cover the balls of cheese so that the cheese just isn’t exposed.
Cheese Ball Topping Ideas
I opted for red and green toppings for creating this Christmas cheese ball wreath. However, you can mix and match the toppings as you see fit.
Here are some ideas for topping the holiday cheese balls.
Ideas for Green Toppings
- Green onions
- Fresh herbs you have for other holiday entertaining like rosemary or thyme
- Finely diced green olives
Ideas for Red Toppings
- Finely diced pimentos
- Smoked paprika sprinkled on (Trader Joe’s is a beautiful bold and bright red shade)
Ideas Instead Of OR In Addition to the Nuts and Seeds
- Cooked bacon or bacon bits
- Finely chopped dried fruit such as chiled mango slices or apricots
- Crushed potato chips
Because it’s more than likely you’re going to be making this Christmas cheese ball wreath as an appetizer for holiday entertaining and events such as Christmas party, New Year’s Eve party, it’s always a lifesaver to be able to make things a day or two ahead of time, and you can do that here.
Actually, I recommend making this a day in advance and keeping it in the fridge, either assembled or the topped and coated cheese balls in airtight containers, because that will give the cheese balls a chance to really firm up.
This will help the wreath to hold at room temp for a longer period of time if you’re starting with well-chilled cheese. Nothing like running the heater in the winter and a busy houseful of people at a party to cause cheese to prematurely soften!
Keep an assembled wreath covered tightly with plastic wrap on a serving platter in your fridge if you want to assemble it and just get it off your to-do list.
Additionally, you could make the balls, dredge them through the toppings, and then very carefully place them inside airtight containers in your fridge. That way all you have to do before your event is just assemble the wreath.
How to Store Cheese Balls
Extra cheese balls from your wreath will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 10 to 14 days. Cheese keeps a long time as you know.
Can You Freeze a Cheese Ball?
Yes, the mini cheese balls can be shaped and frozen for up to three months without the toppings. When ready to eat, place the cheese balls in the fridge overnight, then roll in the toppings prior to serving.
What to Serve with Cheese Balls
You can always just set out toothpicks for guests to pierce the cheese balls, but everything tastes better with some quality crackers, crostini, or some sort of carb.
Additionally cold meats charcuterie style, vegetable crudites, and basically whatever you’d serve on The Best Meat and Cheese Board are all welcome serving additions for your Christmas cheese ball wreath.
Tips For The Best Cheese Ball Wreath
For anyone who’s eager to make this Christmas cheese ball wreath, I’ve got a few more tips for you:
- Because you’re working with small quantities of items that need to be chopped, if you have a mini food processor rather than a full-size one, use it. You can also do a coarse chop on everything by hand.
- Make sure not to over-process the ingredients. Just a few pulses. You don’t want dust or paste!
- Sometimes dried fruit can actually be kind of moist, and this isn’t ideal for your cheese balls. So if your dried cranberries seem quite sticky or moist, before putting them in the food processor, you can place them spread out on a parchment lined pan in an oven set at 200°F for about 20 to 30 minutes. This can help them dry out a bit more. Let them cool completely before using.
- Mixing the cranberries with the sesame seeds after they are put through the food processor will also help them be dryer.
- When placing the cheese balls for the wreath assembly, it works best to place multiple cheese balls around the bottom of your platter in a circular shape, in random colors, before trying to stack more balls on top.
- Stack the remaining balls around the top to complete the wreath.
- If you are struggling to keep the balls in the places you want, try using some toothpicks, just push them in far enough that they cannot be seen, but remember to warn your guests they are there!
- Tuck herbs and leaves like sage around the wreath to decorate it and then add some festive cranberries or pomegranate seeds around. You can use holiday sprigs as well like a sprig of rosemary or thyme.
- three 8-ounce brick-style packages full-fat cream cheese, very well softened to room temp* (See Notes)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese blend** (See Notes)
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, full-fat recommended
- 3 tablespoons dry ranch dip mix (regular, fiesta, or spicy flavor)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (don’t use yellow mustard because the flavor just isn’t the same)
- 1/2 cup red or yellow bell peppers, very finely diced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, coarsely hand-chopped if desired
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, optional (omit if you don’t want any heat)
- To a large bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a handheld electric mixer on high until very smooth. Tip - This will be much easier if your cream cheese is well softened to room temp. Take it out at least 1 hour before beginning and place it in your mixing bowl (take it out of the aluminum foil wrappers).
- Add the shredded cheese, mayo, ranch dip mix***(See Notes), Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, and beat to incorporate.
- Using a medium cookie scoop, form approximately 1-tablespoon sized cheese balls; set the finished ones on a large platter as you work.
- To a mini food processor (or full size if that's all you have) add and pulse the cranberries****(See Notes). Place them in a small bowl.
- Then pulse the pecans and add them to the small bowl with the cranberries and stir to combine. Tip- When pulsing any of the nuts in this recipe, make sure you are not creating dust or nut butter; quick pulses to finely chop is what you are looking for.
- Pulse the pistachios and place them in a separate small bowl.
- Add the black sesame seeds to the bowl with the pistachios and stir to combine.
- Add the slivered almonds and optional red pepper flakes to a separate small bowl and stir to combine.
- Roll ⅓ of the cheese balls in the pecans and cranberries.
- Divide and roll ⅓ of the cheese balls in the pistachios and black sesame seeds.
- Roll the last ⅓ of the cheese balls in the slivered almonds and red pepper flakes.
- Tip For Making In Advance: Optionally, stop here, and carefully place the rolled balls in airtight containers and assemble the actual wreath later.
- On a large platter or plate, arrange the balls in a circle wreath.
- Assembly Tips: Space out the different flavors of cheese balls, and if necessary, use toothpicks (warn your guests about them!) pushed in to hold in place. Stack and stagger the cheese balls to create a beautiful wreath.
- Tuck herbs and leaves like sage around the wreath to decorate it and then add some festive cranberries or pomegranate seeds around.
- You can use holiday sprigs as well like a sprig of rosemary or thyme.
- Refrigerate your platter for at least 2 hours, or up to 24-28 hours, before serving so it holds better at room temp.
- Cheese balls can be made up to 48 hours in advance and kept airtight in separate containers in the fridge. Or, the whole wreath can be assembled and wrapped well with plastic wrap and kept airtight for up to 48 hours in the fridge. After it has sat out at room temp, best to consume the wreath on a singular night/event. However, extra cheese balls will keep for up to 2 weeks airtight in the fridge since cheese keeps very well when sufficiently cold.
*You need to use full-fat, brick-style cream cheese and not low fat, zero fat, or anything labeled ‘spreadable’ since they are too mushy due to their lack of fat. This will translate into the balls of cheese not holding their shape and seeming overly soft and mushy, even when well chilled.
**I used shredded cheddar cheese blend, but you can use a wide variety of shredded cheeses. For example, a Mexican cheese blend or an Italian blend would be fine. As well as pepper Jack or Colby. I’ve never tried used a reduced fat cheese blend, although it would probably be okay.
***If you don't have ranch mix in your part of the world, add 1 to 2 teaspoons garlic salt in its place. Not exactly the same, but for this recipe it is close enough.
****Sometimes dried fruit can actually be kind of moist, and this isn’t ideal for your cheese balls. So if your dried cranberries seem quite sticky or moist, before putting them in the food processor, you can place them spread out on a parchment lined pan in an oven set at 200°F for about 20 to 30 minutes. This can help them dry out a bit more. Let them cool completely before using. Mixing the cranberries with the sesame seeds after they are put through the food processor will also help them be dryer.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 207mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g
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